25 October 2011 - Lille, France - New data released by the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and the Stop TB Partnership finds that in 2010 the world spent just $617 million in tuberculosis (TB) research and development (R&D), or 0.3% less than 2009 funding levels - the first time TAG documents no growth since it began tracking TB research investments in 2005.
The report, Tuberculosis Research and Development: 2011 Report on Tuberculosis Research Funding Trends,2005-2010, tracks annual research spending across six TB R&D areas against funding targets set by the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015. The report offers year-to-year data on the leading TB research funders and underscores the urgency of adequate and sustained funding.
The 2011 report finds that 71 donors invested $617 million in TB R&D in 2010 - less than one-third of the $2 billion annual target the Stop TB Partnership estimates is needed to provide new interventions to eliminate TB. "Recent progress in TB research is clearly threatened by stagnating funding," said TAG’s executive director, Mark Harrington. "After several years of increasing investment, TB research is finally making headway with two new promising drugs for the treatment of multi-drug resistant TB and a new drug combination active against both drug sensitive and drug resistant TB. Cutting investments now will cost lives in the future."
"With current levels of funding it will be impossible to meet the research targets of the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015," said Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. "This is a completely unacceptable situation, because those targets are, I would dare to say, even modest. Where is the funding to push ahead research for a point-of-care diagnostic test accessible to all, new drugs for a shorter treatment time and a fully effective vaccine?"
For the sixth consecutive year, R&D for TB treatment was the most well funded research area - growing 19% from $192 million to $227 million. However, this is just 31% of the $740 million annual Global Plan target for TB treatment research. "In addition to more funding, there is a critical need for guidance on regulatory approval requirements to ensure new drugs and regimens are developed and approved expeditiously," said Eleonora Jiménez-Levi, the report’s author. "It has been 40 years since a new class of TB drugs was approved. With several promising drugs moving through the pipeline, sponsors need more clarity about regulatory pathways needed to secure approval," she added.
The report documents significant funding declines in basic science and vaccines research, which dropped 27% and 29%, to $126.6 million and $78 million, respectively. "The decline in basic science funding is worrisome as this research area offers fundamental knowledge that can help accelerate innovation in drugs, diagnostics and vaccines development," said TAG’s TB/HIV project director, Javid Syed. "We urge policymakers, researchers and activists to close these funding gaps and commit to eliminating TB." The National Institute of Health (NIH) made the largest investment in 2010, spending $224 million in TB R&D across its 27 research centers and institutes. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made up $35.3 million, or 16% of the NIH’s 2010 investment. "The NIH has been a leading investor in TB R&D, particularly in basic science. With the expiry of ARRA funds in 2012 and the possibility of a second global recession, there is an urgent need to redouble our efforts and rededicate funds, especially funding from emerging economies, to capitalize on the momentum recently achieved in TB research," concluded Harrington.